Yellowstone for Dummies

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Many people who move to Bozeman soon make an unexpected discovery –  suddenly they have become extremely popular. Long lost friends come a callin’ hoping to hang out with you – in your Montana paradise. Without fail, my wannabe guests always have two questions. First: Can we stay with you?  Second: Will you take us to Yellowstone?

Without question, my besties can show up at my door, unannounced, at any time, day or night, and stay for as long as they want. I will feed them, share my wine, and do their laundry. However, the same is not true for mere acquaintances.  But once I was living in Big Sky Country, it seemed I was now required by law to roll out the red carpet, be the AirBnB host, executive chef, and perky tour guide for every cousin twice-removed, anyone who signed my high school yearbook, or any human who ever appeared in my contacts.

Although I imagined emailing a Travelocity link for flights, hotels, and rental cars – It’s cheaper when you book together! – inevitably I caved in to the pressure to avoid being known that total schmuck who lives in Montana. “Of course,” I’d say, sometimes while popping my molars like bubble wrap.

Really, I always wanted to be Julie, the Love Boat Cruise Director.

As a result, during our first decade in Bozeman, we would dutifully make the loop through Yellowstone multiple times per summer with guests jammed in our vehicle like a national park clown car. Surrounded by the magnificence of nature, we would plod along in a line of traffic as far as the eye could see at a speed suitable for rush hour on the I-5 near LA. This was usually thanks to the occupants of the pace car, Ernie and Nadine from Alabama, who slowed to a crawl every time Nadine thought she saw a chipmunk.

While millions of camera-toting sightseers jam the roadways of Yellowstone hoping to catch a glimpse of wildlife each year, recently, it’s gotten much easier.

Because these days, the tourists ARE the wildlife.

Not only are visitors setting records in terms of park attendance, this year seems to have been a red-letter year of Tourists Behaving Badly. Although friendly park rangers warn visitors to stay 100 yards away from bears and wolves and 25 yards from bison, elk, and Bighorn sheep, viral videos routinely show tourists hell bent on ignoring the rules. Because taking a selfie with one of Yellowstone’s famous, furry beasts would be the ultimate vacation memory.

And it sure would be – for your next of kin. Because if you try to snap a pic of yourself smooching a big ‘ol bear, there’s a good chance your next stop will be that great national park in the sky.

This year has set the highest bar yet for Tourists Doing Dumb Things. One family was found screaming in agony after they applied bear spray like mosquito repellent. Others were peeved because they didn’t even see a bear. These visitors apparently assume Yellowstone is the equivalent of Disney’s Frontierland, where bonnet-wearing bears break into choreographed song and dance every hour like the Country Bear Jamboree. Until last week, Raymond Reinke, 55, would have received the 2018 Ultimate Jackass Park Visitor Award. Reinke was captured on video in a blatantly stupid, and drunken, attempt to square off in what appeared to be a bar room brawl with a bison. At his sentencing for “harassment of wildlife,” Reinke said, “I’m sorry to the buffalo.”

Where’s Gary Larson when you need him?

But now that award officially goes to the idiot who, in the male spirit of Nature is my Urinal, decided to relieve himself right in Old Faithful.

I hope this jackass soon finds a more appropriate place to take a leak – his jail cell.

 

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